Tiny, self-sufficient, spying, collecting, and reporting computers are not the thing of some far off future, be it dis- or u- topian. That future is here, at least in prototype form. “What we have today is millimeter scale computing systems, that integrate all of the essential features: sensors that can measure light, pressure, temperature,” says Prabal Dutta, a professor at the University of Michigan. “They communicate wirelessly and harvest energy autonomously.”
The genius—and the slog—behind the Michigan Micro Motes, as the tiny computers are called, has less to do with shrinking the size of any one component, and more to do with the painstaking 20-year long task of getting all tiny parts to work together. “There’s no one single thing that had to happen,” says Dutta. “We had to solve a spectrum of challenges.”To read more about some of the challenges they had to overcome, see the full article on the ASME website.